As a single mother of two, Amber W. works as a youth counselor, a YMCA fitness instructor, and a dance instructor for children and adults with disabilities in Helena, Mont. Amber had long dreamed of becoming a homeowner and, in 2021, her vision came to fruition through a combination of USDA Rural Development (RD) Single Family Home Loans and Grants.
The USDA RD Mutual Self-Help Housing Technical Assistant Grant provided funds to the Helena Area Habitat for Humanity to help them carry out self-help housing construction projects so individuals and families in Lewis and Clark County could build their homes and, Amber's home was part of a Helena Area Habitat for Humanity build.
To fund the mortgage, Amber applied for and was awarded a USDA RD Section 502 Direct Loan.
For Amber, her journey to homeownership was so much more than getting a loan and purchasing a house. It was really about building community and friendships.
"Each friend would take a turn spending a Saturday to help me build, and my best friend would drive from Bozeman once a month to help," Amber noted. "It was nice to learn how to do new things with them."
Amber mentioned that, with COVID, they couldn't have many volunteers, so, it was just the neighbors helping each other. "I think that created a huge bond. We learned so much in the process and power tools are no longer intimidating! If we messed something up, we would have a good laugh about it and try again," Amber recollects.
With hours of sweat equity poured into the construction process, Amber shared that her family was overcome with gratitude as the build neared completion. "A dear friend of mine once told me that my home is 'the home that friends built'," Amber shared. "She said it was one of the most beautiful things to see. Whenever I think about that, it makes me tear up because it’s absolutely true. Each part of my home has a memory built into it...sometimes giggles, sometimes struggles, but mostly lots of love!"